In this week’s blog I am going to be talking about not giving up on your music and how to stay motivated when times get tough. And by tough I mean those times (which can last hours, days, weeks, months, and beyond) where you feel stuck in your music career, you may have faced a rejection (or, let’s face it, several rejections), the actions you’ve been taking haven’t had the results you’d hoped for and you’re left feeling demotivated, disheartened and uninspired.
When that happens, it can be easy to temporarily lose your faith in the career path you’ve chosen, and worse, your love of music.
I don’t think there is anyone who has embarked on a career in music and not felt like this.
With that in mind, here are some tips on how to stay motivated.
Recognise that every music artist feels like this (even super-successful ones).
Recognise as fact that no one following a career in music escapes the feelings of rejection, demotivation or lack of inspiration you experience from time to time.
I can tell you from experience of working with new artists, right through to globally successful acts, that even artists who have achieved recognition and sold millions of records still face rejection, still have to carve out opportunities for themselves, and certainly still suffer periods of demotivation. I have had more than one conversation with very ‘successful’ artists who have been on the verge of quitting.
It’s simply not possible to avoid when you are doing something that requires courage and tenacity, and you’re doing it in an industry which can feel very uncertain. However, there are some ways you can lessen the impact of these – which brings me on to the remainder of my tips…
By the very nature of life, never mind the music industry, you are not going to get every opportunity you go for. Not every song you write will be released, not every song you release will be a hit, not every performance you give will be your very best.
Unfortunately, just because you’ve put lots of work in, you’ve spent the time, or you’ve done the research, doesn’t always mean something is going to go your way. There are other factors and variables of which you have far less control – timing, market trends, other artists and organisations, the music industry at large, world events, luck if you believe in that – which all play a part to some extent.
If you learn to expect that and become comfortable with the idea, the rejections have far less impact and the successes become that much sweeter.
However, what you can control – you should. The reason for this is that if you are rejected, or a performance or a release doesn’t have the impact you hoped for, at least you can walk away from it knowing that you did your very best. That you worked your hardest, or produced your best work. Because that’s all that any of us can do.
This brings me neatly on to my next tip:
Have an objective for every action you take
For each action or activity you take, set a specific objective that you would like to achieve from it. Know why you are taking a certain action, and what return on investment you are hoping for from it.
Try to make this objective achievable (whilst still making it something you may need to stretch to reach) and find a way of being able to measure it. In other words, make sure there is a return on investment from every single thing you do.
For example, if you are playing a gig, your objective might be to test out a new song you’ve been working on in front of a live audience. Or to convert five members of the audience into subscribers to your mailing list.
If you reach your objective, you can be satisfied that you got what you needed from the exercise and it was a ‘success’, regardless of whether it then leads onto something further or not. If you feel you have achieved your objective and that it was worthwhile doing, then it was worthwhile doing.
In last week’s blog ‘How to prioritise tasks as a developing artist’ I talked more about having an objective for every action you take, and why you should only undertake tasks which have a return on investment. You can read this here.
Take a practical approach
I am not one for telling and reminding people that the music industry is tough, or that there are no guarantees, or that you should have a back-up plan. To me, those are negative messages and falling back on them when things don’t seem to be going right doesn’t help you.
Instead, try taking a more practical approach and assess why something hasn’t had the response you wanted. Look for gaps in your knowledge, or mistakes that may have occurred, or shortfalls in your offering.
Because once you know these you can fix them! This should make you feel better immediately, because this means that most challenges do also have a solution. A solution which you can find, research and become better at.
Assess and then adjust for the next time. This is how you learn and grow.
Be clear on why you are doing it
If you are a regular to this blog or the AR Seminars, you will have often heard me compare being a music artist to running a small business, and it’s true. You have to believe in your offering, you need to be entrepreneurial, you need create a great brand, implement a strategy and build an audience for your ‘product’ (your music).
You will also no doubt have heard the whopping statistic that 90% of all small businesses fail. In fact, I checked and according to 2016 statistics, 93% of all small businesses will eventually fail and that there is a 1 in 200 chance of succeeding overall. Now I couldn’t find any data, but I’d be willing to bet that the statistics for having a successful music career sound ominously similar.
Of course, when you are thinking about going into business everyone tells you this statistic, and I am guessing that as someone who has aspired and persevered with following a career in music you’ve no doubt been warned countless times how competitive it is; that you should have a back-up plan; that your goals are unrealistic. Am I right?
So, what makes us persevere, even with the odds stacked against us?
It’s got to be a bigger why. You must (subconsciously or consciously) know that this is something you want or need to do, that it’s a risk worth taking, that you believe deep down you can do it, and you must have an idea of why that is.
Think about your own personal why, write it down somewhere, and in times of doubt and demotivation, get it out and remind yourself of why you’re doing it. Consider what the alternative to following your dream is for a minute.
This is usually enough to re-gain perspective and drive you forward in following that why.
Successful artists are the ones that don’t give up
This is stating the obvious, but bear in mind that any music artist who you deem to be successful, or even just slightly further on in their journey than you, is an artist who didn’t give up.
We’ve already discussed that there is not a single person following a music career who hasn’t faced rejections, or negative feedback or hitting dead-ends. With that knowledge, you can be sure that any music artist who is sustaining and succeeding in their music career, simply didn’t give up during the tough times!
In my experience, it is this single factor that often defines the difference between a successful artist, over and above their talent, music, or brand. Food for thought…
To register your interest for the AR ‘Self-Manage Your Music Career‘ online course, which leads you through how to create your brand, build your audience, implement a strategy to follow for your music career and monetise your music, click here!